Tuesday 26 September 2023

Amid Shutdown Showdown, McCarthy Remains Popular With Conservative Base

 A small group of House Republicans has said that they’re willing to risk a possible government shutdown, rejecting party leadership’s funding bills unless specific demands are met. But they may face an uphill battle in the court of public opinion, according to an analysis of polling data showing House Speaker Kevin McCarthy remains immensely popular with conservatives.

The members holding up spending bills have framed their effort as an attempt to hold the line for conservatives — but polls indicate conservatives in the country are sticking with McCarthy. The most recent favorability survey for McCarthy, conducted as he sparred last week with members such as Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), found that he is viewed favorably by conservatives by more than a 2 to 1 margin, 56% to 26%, according to The Economist and YouGov. Among respondents who said they voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020, it’s even more favorable for McCarthy, with 59% in favor and just 23% opposed.

McCarthy’s fight for the speakership, which was made more complicated by virtually the same group of Republican holdouts in the caucus, was boosted significantly by an endorsement for the job by Trump, though the former president is now urging Republicans to “hold the line” ahead of a potential shutdown, stating his belief that President Joe Biden will be blamed. But the target of Trump’s ire in his Sunday night post on the potential shut down was not McCarthy, but rather Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McCarthy remains in good standing with the former president, though unable to wield that influence to wrangle the more unruly members of his caucus. Gaetz and his fellow holdouts have killed McCarthy’s effort to buy time for negotiations with a stopgap spending measure.

While the House hardliners have failed to tank McCarthy’s credibility with the base, the shutdown push may not prove detrimental for the hardliners either. Most Republicans say that a government shutdown would not have a direct impact on them. According to the Partnership for Public Service, 46% of Republicans say that a government shutdown would personally affect them. A majority of Americans, 68%, say the threat of a shutdown hurts their faith in government, however.

Gaetz appeared on Fox News over the weekend to defend his stonewall of McCarthy in a combative interview with “Sunday Morning Futures” host Maria Bartiromo. Gaetz accused McCarthy of delivering nothing more than performative “wins” for conservatives and said the Republican leader needed to be held accountable to win concrete victories.

“We can set up committees and have hearings and yell at people, but at the end of the day if we still send the check to fund a weaponized government, having a weaponization subcommittee is little relief to the American people,” Gaetz said.

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